Jan. 26, 2016 — For the third time, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering a potential Independent run for president.
The New York Times is reporting that Bloomberg has hired a team of political consultants to begin examining his ability to qualify for the ballot as an Independent candidate in all 50 states. Doing so is no easy feat –- the major parties constructed and passed laws at the state level that effectively limit easy ballot qualification to the Democrats and Republicans -– and the Times reports the advisors are telling Bloomberg that he would have to launch his effort no later than March if he is to have any chance of attaining national ballot placement.
The same reports suggest that Bloomberg would be willing to spend as much as $1 billion of his personal fortune – his personal wealth is estimated to be in the $41 billion range – on a national campaign. But, can even a well-funded Independent have any chance of winning the presidency? Probably not.
We turn back to 1992, the last time an Independent attracted any significant vote. Then, businessman Ross Perot, running on the Reform Party ticket, captured 19 percent of the popular vote nationally, the best third party candidate showing since Teddy Roosevelt tallied 27 percent as the Progressive Party nominee in 1912.
Though Perot was a viable candidate, he captured no Electoral Votes because he failed to win even one state. The best third party Electoral Vote performance since World War II came from then-South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond who won 46 EVs in the 1948 election as a “Dixiecrat”. Therefore, history suggests that Bloomberg’s prospects of winning as an Independent would be poor at best.
Bloomberg is also letting it be known that he would likely run if Sen. Bernie Sanders became the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were the Republican standard-bearer.
Despite Sen. Sanders potentially running well in Iowa and New Hampshire -– the two states have a grand total of only 84 combined delegates within a Democratic delegate universe of 4,764 -– he has little chance of winning the party nomination. Therefore, even sweeping the two states would only give him in the neighborhood of 50-55 delegates, hardly an intimidating number, especially when Hillary Clinton’s internal Democratic electoral strength lies in the south. After March 1, Clinton’s delegate lead will be such that any talk of a Sanders’ national upset will be extinguished.
Despite published analysis to the contrary, a Bloomberg candidacy would most hurt the eventual Democratic nominee. His extreme position on gun control -– to the left of both Clinton and Sanders –- would not attract right-of-center voters disenchanted with either Trump or Cruz. His banning of large soft drinks and leading a “nanny-state” crusade when he was NYC mayor also would fail as a selling point to disaffected Republicans. The argument that his fiscal policy could attract such voters is also unlikely to be realized because the targeted right-of-center voter is generally not going to support someone with such strong allegiance to Wall Street.
Therefore, should Bloomberg actually get into the race even with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, he would likely attract enough social liberal voters, and those left-of-center voters who don’t trust her, to potentially throw a critical state to the GOP nominee.
Since there is virtually no path to victory for a Bloomberg Independent candidacy, it is likely that he will again decline to run. The early talk of such a move will, in all likelihood, never come to fruition.